Thursday, 4 April 2013

Michaela DePrince

Readers of this blog will have guessed that I love Africa which is why I wrote about Anno's Africa work in the rough neighbourhoods of Nairobi in "What can be achieved by a good teacher". Some might even have guessed from my clip of Lady Feli in "Happy Mother's Day" that I have a connection with Sierra Leone.

The reason I love Africa is that my late spouse came from Sierra Leone which is one of the smallest and poorest countries on that continent.  I visited Sierra Leone in 2007 when it was still recovering from a vicious civil war. The people there the kindest and most courteous that I had ever known. However, the massive number of young people missing an arm or a leg in Freetown indicated that at least some Sierra Leoneans were capable of the utmost cruelty.

Imagine my delight when I read "The Unstoppable Ballerina: A young dancer’s journey from Sierra Leone to the heights of American ballet" by Malcolm Jones in The Daily Beast of 2 April 2013. This is article about Michaela DePrince.  This young woman is not just a promising dancer plucked out of Africa.  She is clearly exceptional.   As Jones says in his article:
"In her 18 years, Michaela has experienced more than most people do in a full lifetime. Dancing since she was 6, she won a scholarship to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of the American Ballet Theatre after competing against 5,000 other young dancers in the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix, an annual competition showcased in the acclaimed 2011 documentary First Position. One of six aspiring dancers the film profiled, Michaela, then 14, supplied the most heart-in-throat moments when she stubbornly danced through a case of tendonitis that threatened to kill her career before it even started."
I have Googled DePrince and found her website which is full of lovely photos. I can't wait to see her in England.

I know a little boy in Thamesmead who is half Sierra Leonean and half Ghanaian who knows nothing of ballet but can rotate his legs and perform perfect sauté and almost an arabesque quite naturally. I am trying to persuade his mum to let him take lessons.  Up to now she has been sceptical but perhaps DePrince's example will help change her mind.

5 Oct 2013  DePrince is now with the Junior Company of the National Ballet of the Netherlands which is a lot closer than New York City (see "No Holds Barred" 4 Oct 2013).

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